Brands have to be more responsible than ever before. These days' customers are looking for more than someone who can sell a product at the most affordable price. They are looking deeper into what companies are doing in order to ascertain whether their corporate values align with their own.

Take Small Business Saturday as the biggest example of creating a movement instead of just plain marketing. This is where every year a Saturday is chosen where every brand involved will encourage people to shop at small businesses. It's about supporting small retailers and local economies across the US. Last year $16 billion was generated in sales. 

At first glance, you may be wondering why a big company would care less about potentially reducing their sales by doing it. Take another look and it suddenly becomes extremely clever.

What is a Brand Story?

To begin with, you need to define what a story is. It's quite simple to understand. Think of it as like any other marketing campaign. The difference is that you are promoting something much bigger than yourself. The aim of the game isn't to increase your sales it's to accomplish a bigger goal in collaboration with other brands.

These stories can cover anything, such as supporting local business or supporting a charity. But they are all out to accomplish the same ends every time. This is the ultimate way to build a personal brand and retain loyal customers.

Why are Branding Making Stories?

It's all about being able to boost your personal brand. As already mentioned, people care more than ever before about what your company is doing and how they are operating within the local community. Brands are making stories because it's what works best for branding.

For example, one main trend is that philanthropy in business is growing. Customers want to work with brands that are making a real positive impact in the world. Stories are entirely geared towards accomplishing this through strong personal branding. 

It's true that in the short-term participating brands are taking risks. They are accepting losses. In the case of Small Business Saturday, shoppers are actively encouraged to go elsewhere. It means a significant daily increase in sales, which tends to carry over to the days afterwards.

But executives are thinking long-term about their prospects. Companies with better personal brands are more likely to retain loyal customers. They can create loyalty and drag in new customers who are using corporate responsibility as a major influencer.

Who Can Create a Story?

The best thing about stories is that this isn't something that's confined to large businesses. Yes, you can start a story even as a small business, but don't forget that you can also be on the receiving end of a movement. For example, if you are a small business participating in Small Business Saturday you have a lot to gain. You are gaining access to customers who may have never heard of before.

As long as you have something to give or to receive, there's no reason why you can't participate in some sort of movement.

How Do You Get Started?

In Forbes, Mike O'Toole identifies three issues that can help you get started:

Usefulness- Think about how useful you are to your customers. Begin by looking at the people who are already loyal to you. What do they stand for and how should you go about maintaining their loyalty? It should be relatively easy if you already understand your target audience. 

Give Away Something- Creating a memorable story usually involves giving away something for free, whether this is time or an actual product. You have to think about what you are really good at that you can give away for free. It has to be related to you specifically or you are going to find it difficult to make your mark.

How Will You Participate- You need to consider how you are going to attract people to assist you in creating this story. This may include reaching out to other businesses or it could involve running a huge Facebook ads marketing campaign.This depends on what you have found most effective for advertising in the past.

Don't be disheartened if your first attempts at creating a movement don't take the world by storm. There are lots of stories that are successful that you have likely never heard of. Even just encouraging a few people to participate and making a big deal about it makes it worthwhile.

Conclusion

Companies like Bant.io have learned from businesses such as American Express and FedEx about making stories work to boost sales and business performance. A movement is just another unexpected way of doing so.

How will you make a story today?

Published on: Apr 9, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.